Boys, Twilight and Romance Novels

When I was in junior high and high school, I couldn’t have named a single boy who would read a romance novel. Publicly. It was just the way things were. And until last week, I never considered that things might be different now. I should have, but I didn’t.

I still don’t know a lot of men who read romances aside from those who are gay and read male/male romances. That’s another issue entirely. In part, I believe this to be because of the utter vacuum of emptiness within the gay genre. If you want to read gay fiction, in most cases, you’re stuck with romance or erotica. I’m not implying a problem with these genres. I’m just pointing out the gap.

There is a lot of fiction out there for all men to read regardless of orientation. The basic action adventure, the basic fantasy or sci-fi novel, mystery/suspense, etc. Usually, the romance is left to women. Or so it’s been…

On Monday, I picked my sons up from school and had a “rethinking” moment. One of my 10th grader’s friends, was sitting on a rock in front of school, reading as he waited for his ride. What was he reading? A Harlequin. By choice. And liking it. I think that was pretty darn cool. His girlfriend was wandering around nearby and he was ignoring her in favor of the book, and from my son’s report, he’d been reading the book during every free moment he had at school—including during an assembly. My gosh! It was me in high school, lol!

This shouldn’t have struck me as such an oddity. There’s been a definite culture shift in the last years. And lots of boys have devoured books with strong romantic elements—and they haven’t died! Point of fact: Twilight (or the whole Twilight series). There’s no denying the romance thread in these books. Boys have been consuming these books in droves. Could it be that through these books, consciously or not, that they’ve learned romance isn’t such an awful thing? Or Hush Hush? Romance plays a big part. Even the Harry Potter books have a bit of it. Much of the general YA fiction of our day has romance as part of it, and I think it’s helped to herald a cultural shift.

Or has our culture heralded a fiction shift—as in who reads what? Since World War II there’s been a steady disintegration of the gender dividing line. What’s manly and what’s womanly has blurred considerably. I can’t imagine my grandfather reading a romance novel. I also can’t really imagine him doing the dishes or laundry unless it was a drastic situation. I can’t imagine my mother repairing a car (even putting in oil challenges her). I can’t imagine Twilight being as popular with boys when I was in high school as it is now. I mean, c’mon, it was the men of my generation who coined the term “chick flick”. That’s a movie for women but I’ll sit through it if I have to. Just know that I know what it is and I’m suffering. It should in no way cast doubt on my masculinity.

You know the attitude of which I speak.

I’m aware these are generalizations and they don’t fit every man of these generations. But generalizations are born because they fit the main share of people in that category. How have we changed? Well…men today are just as likely to do the dishes and laundry as women. “Men’s” jobs and “women’s” jobs at home and at the workplace barely exist. Either gender can be found doing any job. Women of today can certainly do minor car repairs—or even be mechanics. And boys read romance novels. Openly. And they don’t get burnt at the stake for it.

And that’s a very cool thing.

I’d love to know your opinion on this.
~~Brynn

11 thoughts on “Boys, Twilight and Romance Novels

  1. Hi Brynn, What a great post! I have to agree. I think things are changing, slowly, but they are. My husband is one that loves Twilight and he happens to the dishes and laundry on occasion. LOL I'm excited that more boys are picking up these books. 🙂

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  2. I have two grown sons who wash dishes, clean houses, cook like gourmet chefs, and who even know how to sew buttons on. Unfortunately they have not made the shift to romance reading…but I'm working on them. LOL! Momma brought her boys us right.

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  3. My son reads everything under the sun, but not romance although he reads some fiction with romantic plots. My husband likes a good romance now and then and he's open about it – now that men have Kindles and ereaders, I bet many more are reading romance.

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  4. When I first became a published author my father talked about reading my books. I jokingly pointed out that I wrote romance and wasn't sure he'd be interested. He looked appalled and promptly asked me what I thought he read. Knowing my father devoured every louis LaMour and Zane Grey or Max Brand he got his hands on I told him.

    He then said–you've read them? I realized that he meant the books did have a romantic element in them and that it didnt make a whit of difference to him if what I wrote were “romance” or not. My DH is another story all together. The man wouldn't touch a book with a ten foot pole–unless is was about reloading ammo, building custom cars or racing…

    Love the post Brynn!

    Hugz
    Donica

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  5. I agree that there has been a culture shift and a blurring in the lines of what's a man's job and what's a womans.

    Still at that I don't know many men who openly read “romance” novels. As Donica said–most of the men I know read Zane Grey, Louis LaMoure or Stephen King. And while yes, Louis and Zane have romantic elements to them, Stephen King doesn't have too many that I would call romantic elements. NOT TO SAY THERE ISNT ANY! (The Dark Tower series pops into my mind first and foremost–there are a few places in there where you can FEEL romance buried underneath…I'm sure there's more but thats the one that springs up first…)

    Excellent post! Take care!
    Jinger Jackson

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  6. When K was 12, he wanted to read my 1st book. After three chapters, he gave it back. “There's too much love in it, Mom.”

    Six years later, he laughs if he catches me writing certain words!

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  7. My brother, the truck driver, reads all the time. He loves some of the same authors I do, especially Tara Janzen. Of course, she has a lot of cool cars and guns! But he has been reading romance novels for a long time. He's definitely a man's man, but he is a good man and I think he is more…attuned to women for having read all this time from their point of view. It's a good thing. AKM

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  8. Could more boys be reading romance today because the books are getting sexier? Let's face it, boys (and girls) like to read about sex, and if a romance novel is going to bring them that, then that's what they'll read.

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  9. Hi, Brynn,

    I have to say that my thoughts run along the lines of Margaret Yang's. When you're a teenager, anything with even a whiff of sex is fascinating. I remember poring over the old James Bond books which were popular when I was in high school. As romance has become sexier (and hence more realistic), I think they've become a source of information and excitement for boys as well as girls.

    This isn't bad at all. I'd much rather teens read about sex within the context of a loving relationship than the contrary.

    All the best,
    Lisabet

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